The Courts have once again punished business for the cost of repeated safety breaches. Perry’s Roofing Pty Ltd (Perry’s Roofing) were involved in two incidents involving electrical shocks and falls from height. The cases were heard simultaneously by District Court Judge Russell.
In February 2019, Perry’s Roofing had been engaged by Riverwall Constructions Pty Ltd to undertake roof replacements at a construction site as it had been damaged by hail. While two workers were dismantling the edge protection of the roof, the metal handrail made contact with energised power lines leading to serious burns to one worker and fatal injuries to the other.
Only 17 days later, two Perry’s Roofing workers fell through a hole in the roof. The workers were stacking roofing sheets on a roof structure on a different site. A section of the roof collapsed as they had stacked 997kg of roofing sheets onto the roof. Both workers suffered from significant injuries.
The failures that led to both incidents were almost identical. Perry’s Roofing’s SWMS failed to account for any of the hazards which directly caused the incidents. Perry’s Roofing tried to shift responsibility to the principal contractors, alleging they should be responsible for site-specific assessments. But this argument was dismissed as Perry’s Roofing had primary duties to ensure the health and safety of its workers and these duties were not transferable.
Ultimately the Court found Perry’s Roofing guilty of:
- Breaching their primary duty of care under section 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW); and
- A Category 2 breach of failing to comply with their health and safety duty under section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW).
Judge Russell assessed the level of culpability as significant because:
- The risks of overhead power lines and falling from heights were obvious;
- There was a lack of supervision and training for their young and inexperienced workers; and
- They relied on “gut feel” safety measures, instead of undertaking proper risk assessments, SWMS or following expert advice.
Ultimately Perry’s Roofing was fined a total of $600,000 ($450,000 for the electrical incident and $150,000 for the fall from heights incident). These significant fines are after a 25% discount for its early guilty plea.